Summer Days are winding down. School is about to begin again and children are excited to get new clothes, shoes, school supplies, and find out who their new teacher will be.
When I think back to my childhood days, what I remember most about shopping for school was our annual visit to Solomon's Shoe Store. What a grand adventure this always was. My mom would get us all dressed up nicely, almost as if we were getting ready for church or going out to a nice restaurant for dinner. I still remember the smell of new leather and the sound of a soft bell ringing as we walked in the door. I remember the sight of walls lined with many bright, shiny new shoes. As we walked in, we were always greeted kindly by the clerk, and he would listen intently as my mom told him exactly what shoes she wanted my sisters and me to try on. When I was small, it was always a new pair of patent leather black Mary Janes. As I grew older, I was allowed to choose a new pair of penny loafers in either brown or black. This was quite a thrill the first time I had a choice in shoes. I remember feeling very special when the clerk would measure my feet to find just the right fit. He would take out the large shiny, silver measure and carefully place first my right and then my left foot onto the cold steel. Then he would glance up at my mom and remark, "You need to buy these girls a good sturdy pair of shoes that will last them until Easter." My mom would always agree because back then those were the only times we bought new shiny "dress up shoes". I can't remember when or why we stopped shopping at Solomon's shoes, but I do know it was a special experience that I've never forgotten.
People and places touch our lives in so many different ways. Our paths may cross once or many times. But the people and the places that have touched our lives with kindness are the ones we tend to remember most. Most shoe stores today are very impersonal. You go in and browse around on the row that offers shoes in your size, try on a few pairs, and if you need help you go search for a salesperson. That distinct smell of new leather has been replaced by a nondescript smell that doesn't draw you in or create an air of excitement. Shoes are purchased all year long, not only twice a year, so the excitement of having a new pair of shoes to "break in" just isn't there.
It's now the beginning of a new school year, and I feel drawn to the shoe shops once again. I do love to go shoe shopping, and my husband would even tell you I have way too many pairs of shoes, yet I certainly miss those days when the shoe shopping experience was not just about buying a pair of shoes, but about a personal experience of sharing a part of our lives with others.